Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Bryce Suderow and is included in a collection of articles from the Kennebec Journal. His transcription of this article is published here with his written permission.
Written for the Kennebec Journal
THE COLORED TROOPS OF THE NINTH CORPS
We have noted with what avidity the Copperheads and negro-hunters have seized upon the fact that the colored soldiers of the 9th Corps did not carry the second line of breastworks at Petersburg on the 30th ult. and that they broke and fled under the terrible fire that was poured upon them, and there seems to be universal exultation among this class of people; just as though it determined the disputed point that negroes are not fit for soldiers — only for slaves — and that the Copperhead party ought to rule. Does this single event prove that colored soldiers are good for nothing, and not to be used in the war because they could not be pushed up to the intrenchments of the rebels at Petersburg? If that settles the question, then the question that white troops are good for nothing is also settled. In one of the charges at Port Hudson, the white troops could not be urged up to the intrenchments, but broke and fled, and could not be rallied again until they were out of danger, while some in the negro regiments went over the enemy’s breastworks inside of the fort and were captured. At Spottsylvania on the 12th the white regiments and veteran troops broke and fled to the rear, and it was with utmost efforts that their officers could stop them with drawn swords and revolvers, and were unable to get them back again into the fight. Again on the 18th a veteran brigade of the 2nd Corps, white troops, that had done honor to itself upon many a field, broke and ran over the troops in its rear; and on neither occasion were they exposed to such terrible enfilading fire as the negroes were. Once at Petersburg, we saw a noble, brave and veteran regiment break and run at the first fire of the rebels, But do these events prove that white men are unfit for service?
The 4th Division of the 9th Corps were never in a fight before; they were exposed not only to a terrible fire of musketry in front from behind intrenchments, but to an enfilading fire upon both flanks, from musketry and artillery.The grape and canister were ploughing through them with terrible slaughter, and it is very doubtful whether any troops could have been pushed through that terrible fire. Why is this single instance seized upon to decry the reputation and character of negro soldiers in the face of a score of hard fought fields where they have won imperishable laurels? Simply because there is a party in the land who are opposed to the abolition of slavery, because in that institution, as in a basis of compromise, they see the only hope of their party’s success; and cannot bear the thought that the negroes are fit for anything but slaves. Their whole drift is to save slavery, that it may be the future basis of political compromises, whereby they can sell themselves to the South for a mass of pottage from the public crib. They have no wish or desire to put down this rebellion…
– A. Deering1
- “The Colored Troops of the Ninth Corps,” Kennebec (ME) Journal, August 12, 1864, p. 2 col. 4 ↩